Anna Goldsmith knows all the backstage secrets of producing a TEDx event. Since 2018, Goldsmith has produced TEDx Portsmouth, one of the largest TEDx events in the country. The speakers she’s worked with have been recognized across TED platforms and around the world. Innovation Women collaborated with Goldsmith in a webinar session to pick her brain. She guided speakers interested in applying to TEDx events, sharing some of her best tips, tricks and insider information.
What are TED and TEDx?
Although some people believe that TED is an actual person, TED is actually an acronym for technology, entertainment, and design. TED, the original brand, only has four main events a year, featuring around fifty coveted speakers. This elite conference evolved into a movement, leading to an explosion in the popularity of public speaking.
TEDx events are local versions of the mainstage events. These can range anything from “a tiny little event in a church basement to a huge event with 1,000 attendees,” according to Goldsmith. Some TEDx events are very prestigious and take only nominated speakers. However, you can simply apply to most of them. Don’t know where to begin? Goldsmith walks us through the process.
What can a TEDx talk do for you?
Simply put, TED is one of the most respected brands in the world.
- Being a part of a TEDx event increases your credibility substantially. Being seen as a speaker has a huge impact on your brand, your career and your business.
- The entire process is completely free, and some events may even pay for your travel and accommodation. You will undergo a rigorous process that can take your speaking, writing and stage presence to the next level.
- Your TEDx talk will be a new resource for you in your career. Sharing it with everyone you know and promoting it online will help your business grow and foster new connections. Your audience the day of might be local, but afterward, it’s global.
Is TEDx right for you?
Goldsmith makes it clear: the TEDx process is not for the weak!
“If you get accepted, it’s a part-time job from the time you get accepted to the time you get on stage.”
She estimates the average speaker spends around 500 hours on their talk. That’s why the application process itself is lengthy. It’s meant to deter people who are not committed to the process – a first-stage test.
What do you need to apply to a TEDx event?
One of the largest misconceptions about speaking at TEDx events is that you’ll need to be a professional speaker. Goldsmith emphasizes that the key requirement is having a big, unique idea. Try to avoid talks that have been done already at TEDx events. Although events can differ in complexity, support and resources, TEDx Portsmouth includes a team of professionals who will work with you to develop your talk. This includes a designer, a speaking coach and a writer. In that case, all you need to apply is a unique, well-thought-out idea.
Finding your big idea
Goldsmith’s big tip for finding your topic? Imagine a Venn diagram.
“One circle is your expertise. Another circle is your passion. And the third circle is something that’s interesting to a smart general audience. That little middle section, that’s where your ideas live.”
Bobbie Carlton recalled additional advice she received from her TEDx team on brainstorming a big idea before she delivered her talk. “If I could do a presentation that had someone in the audience super excited to run out the door and replicate what I was doing? That would be a winner.”
You should also listen to or watch as many TEDx talks as possible. You’ll start to notice patterns and structures, picking out what works well and what doesn’t. You can check out an example talk from TEDx Portsmouth below.
What to know before applying to events
You’ve got an amazing idea – now you’ll have to find the right event.
- It’s often easier to be accepted into TEDx events in your area. Most events are designed to uplift local speakers and ideas. There are exceptions, such as TEDx Reno, which looks for the opposite.
- Goldsmith recommends events that have an up-to-date website and a event with talks that average around 400 views online. Look at videos from the event’s previous years and see if it matches the quality you are expecting. If not, it may be better to wait for the right opportunity.
- The best events are normally ones from well-known cities and locations.
- Once you deliver your talk at one TEDx event, you are not allowed to repeat it.
- You should also wait at least two years before applying for another event since TEDx organizers like to see a variety of speakers.
- A TEDx speaker must be an expert in their field. The definition of “expert” may differ, but TEDx is strictest with science. Any talk that relates to the scientific world must be backed by hard scientific evidence and theory.
- TEDx does not allow overtly political topics, and more restrictions are listed on their website.
Nailing your application to a TEDx event
Most applications require a video submission. That doesn’t mean you need to fill an auditorium and hire a videographer – it’s about your speaking ability and personality. Make sure you have good audio quality, so what you’re saying to the TEDx team is clear.
Other application tips from Goldsmith
- Firstly, fill out your own application rather than letting someone else reach out on your behalf.
- Take your time with the application. Put in thought, even if it’s a long process. This is your first impression and a commitment to the event – don’t take it lightly.
- Every event has a theme, so aligning your idea with the theme should give you an edge. However, it’s not make or break.
- Give your amazing talk an equally appealing title. Try to draw people in. Remember, event organizers look at hundreds of applications, so don’t put them to sleep..
- Make your big idea clear, and prove why you’re the right person to deliver it.
What do you wear as a speaker at a TEDx event?
In terms of fashion tips for the day of the event, Goldsmith has some dos and don’ts.
Do wear something:
- Classic that will not look outdated five to ten years from now. This will keep your talk timeless.
- That makes you feel comfortable and confident.
- Professional, but not over-the-top.
Do not wear:
- High heels. Too many TEDx speakers stumble up the steps to the stage.
- Dangly earrings since they can interfere with the mic.
- Black, as it may cause you to blend in with the background.
Where do you start now?
Does this all seem too intimidating for you? Goldsmith suggests being a part of a TEDx team first. As an insider, you can understand how decisions are made. You will easily learn what people like and have a leg up to apply the following year.
We hope that you learned some valuable tips and tricks for applying to TEDx events. For even more insider secrets, check our article How to Land a TEDx Talk on Your First Try.